The Brooklyn Rail

OCT 2019

All Issues
OCT 2019 Issue


Peel the orange

and it's more orange.

Blue is the language

the sky speaks.

The human spirit is quiet and

defeated in strokes both slight and broad, but

opposition always finds a surface

to lay its instruments on.

A resigned transition of power

cued in time with dinner.

Later, there's a moment

to enjoy the benefits of our situation,

but who am I really talking about?

A gasp of brightness with the realization

there had been someone there all along

dragging their feet and kicking up more dust.

Synonyms undress as opposites

then a few letters are peeled back

and there's just more language underneath.

An element is seen as fruitful.

Light reforms to sparks

no longer thrumming with nature's routine

but data-driven and wanting the glimmer

of an answer instead. So, we took on more work

than we expected. The hours were billable

though embarrassing when I look back at it.

I'm month to month now wondering if

I'll soon burn out. This group text that I'm on

wakes me before sunrise. Mere curiosity

topples whole empires of thought,

helpless in the waves of consciousness

heaped upon myself. I've come to

find, however, under the morning

is only more morning. Funny

how important a subject becomes

when it's the only possible outcome

pulled out of context. Like, there's an ethics

of leaving well enough alone as there is

an ethics of breaching a limit

though it is possible

to overextend one's comprehension

through sheer force of enthusiasm

and miss the point entirely

unable to apprehend the thing itself

until it's out of reach, sent

skyward with the rest of our words

for the common generosity uncovered

before the morning takes its first breath

to say criticism has a natural antipathy

with biography as if a life of the mind were

a post of unassailable neutrality. It didn't

say that. It said nothing. Earlier, it was only morning

then. It would go on to say nothing

and even that was only morning, so it said,

"Peel an orange, and it’s the language the sky speaks."

                   [Upstate, 2-5-19]

Any writing that doesn't move toward love will crash against a wall or some other hard surface, like that time the brakes failed on a train entering Estación Once.

- Cecilia Pavón, "A Perfect Day"

Ski pronounced

sky could be a variation on love

when you're not looking and only a vital whisper

extends as if to say there's something here

you can depend on. An unbroken wing

or the last bite of dinner is saved for you.

I tried to find Cecilia Pavón's website

to gather some general information about

my new writer crush, which seems to change

a few times a year even though I don't consider myself

all that capricious. I found a Tumblr of hers.

It appears unused and dilapidated

like some shitposting termite

crawled into her admin and filled the homepage

with 2015 consumer "Top Best" lists. "Top Best Waring

Blenders Reviews 2015," "Top Best Ironing Boards

Reviews 2015," "Top Best Pedestal Fans Reviews 2015,"

et al. Strange truisms escape from these untrustworthy

gateways: "Let's face it. The fast-paced lifestyle of today

is tiring and stressful." Someone speaking to their friends

a table over from me at the coffee shop just said, "Ha ha!

All I know is that I don't ever want to work again." As if

any life that doesn't move toward love will crash against

labor. Vehicles escape through fire in harrowing uploads

and leave a lasting impression on the film industry. Whenever

real disaster strikes, our virtual assessment shifts toward reality

as a means to invest in what can't be forgotten, what we see

when we close our eyes, which is different than love, a thing

that dissolves or burns out or is made unobtrusive

at a later point in time. It's a shaky definition, lo-fi

lexicology. I'm really asking for a friend. I spend

my mornings writing these loose poems about the many

ways to say the same thing, often sensing the instability of this

time, whether something will be written in the span allotted

or wasted on free wi-fi with purchase of coffee (cappuccino)

before I, moving obliquely toward love, crash against labor.

A day's unfinished work waits on a hard drive or as series of neon

post-its on my keyboard. Consistency and regularity

alienate as they push these words—yesterday, today, tomorrow—

as interlocutors of happenstance playing themselves

off as near divine agenda. A threshold closes itself

with a silent though furious whisking of curtains, spiraling

into an impersonation of place. Inextricably knotted

to a distant sense of loss, a thread is strung into an uncertain void

that grows darker as it stretches, and believing you can distinguish

anything, you imagine where the string is tied, where you are certain

there is an end because of course. What else could be keeping

this string so taut when you're holding only one end?

Rain over a vast body of water

makes little to no difference, and the conditions

divert relief even farther from where its needed.

The coupon for free refills expired, so I hold my finger

over the date, a strategic response to inevitability

strip mining our last reliable assets

before a clean sweep shuts everything

in an offsite storage unit. A feasible utopia

could be born out of decisions and moments

like this? I'm seriously asking. I had a car

I sold for rent once. Sometimes I see it around.

               [Brooklyn, 11-11-18]


Ted Dodson

Ted Dodson is the author of “At the National Monument / Always Today” (Pioneer Works, 2016) and “Pop! in Spring” (Diez, 2013). He edits for BOMB and Futurepoem and is a former editor of The Poetry Project Newsletter.


The Brooklyn Rail

OCT 2019

All Issues